America's most Best Broken

When you see an out of service fare boxes, like the one pictured above, it tells us several things. First, that revenue will be lost to the already in-the-red LACMTA. Then it highlights the fact that, like so many other investments made by by the organization, it was not proven by field testing and therefore was a BAD investment. Here, one can think Expo Line, which concept could be proven by setting up Rapid buses along the approximate route of the trains. But no, the muddled thinking at the LACMTA is something along the line of “If we build it maybe the passengers will come”.

If one studies the fare box in detail, it can be noted that the sign below the coin receptacle reads, in effect, “insert coins one at a time”. it is the jambing of coins and bills which put the fare boxes out of service. “Insert[ing] coins one at a time” results in slower boarding along with an attendant schedule slippage.

We all have seen the supermarket “coin counters”, which allow a jar of coins to be dumped into the hopper, yet will still count accurately. In this case, the company that makes fare boxes for use by public transit agencies is unable to match that technology, even on a smaller scale,therefore, we must must insert coins at a time. An organisation that aspires to be best of class is expected to have follow-up and in the case of the fare boxes, DEMAND that the suppliers retrofit the fare boxes with features that make them suitable for the purpose for which they were sold!

Trip[ped] [up] Planner

Once again "America's Best[2007-2007]" Trip Planner failed. Reports of like failures have resulted in the usual response from the people (contractors?) responsible for maintaining this cobbled-together, weak software offering, viz. no action. Your Mole has the skill set to make this assertion. This time he used the simplest subset of a longer trip to demonstrate the failure. The Mole hopes that publicising this failure will result in the agency making corrections so that others will benefit from the improved software. The problem: the Tripped [up] Planner will produce a page which lists the optional routes (bus lines and etc.) for the trip so that the user can select one.

Unfortunately, the “system designers” did not feel it necessary to add some indication of exactly which web page is being displayed. Such indications would be included by all but the most junior and inept web designers. Including these indications, something as simple as, say, “Trip Planner – Progress Page 3”, aids the user in making reports. The Tripped [up] Planner displays at least four (4) pages and possibly more. But since there is NO INDICATION of progress I can only identify the problem page as page three and a half, in that page 3 is displayed and when one selects the desired option the Tripped [up] Planner just gives up! A sample is in order. I am planning a trip to Pasadena and my destination is the intersection of E. California Bl and S. Marengo Av. So I visit http://www.metro.net/ and on the Trip Planner side of the page (the right side) I enter Union Station as the “From” and “E. California Bl /S. Marengo Av” as “To”. I select Friday and 6:00PM as “When”, using a “Regular” fare type.
On “page 2” [my notation] I click Continue.
On “page 3” [my notation] I am presented with a singe choice, “Metro Gold Line”, from which to make my selection.

I select it, by clicking the “radio button” and the computer responds with a blank page, i.e., no details for the trip! I attempted to produce a route at least three (3) times before giving up. I have submitted variations of this failure report for several years.

Now, you can use my report as a basis for your report and perhaps sometime in the far future, long after some other transportation system has been named “America’s Best” the problem will be corrected. To submit your report cut and paste this link, http://www.mta.net/feedback.htm into your browser. Oh, after using the link, your report will be displayed but there is no “closure button provided” – one that says “Thank you for your report, to close this window click the “Finished button” Or to submit your report click “Submit” etc., etc. I have reported this “left hanging and wondering what happened” problem as feedback too, in the past and surprise – nothing was done :=). To the Metro Web master: “You’re doing a great job, Brownie!” or whatever your name is.

The Mole reads the papers (and other things) so you don't have to

USA Today, featured a nice story about high-speed trains in Europe(1). It points out that a seven-country alliance called “Rail Team” coordinates “ticketing, fast connections and simple timetables”. The European system seems to be constantly striving to improve the passenger's experience. LACMTA N.B. - What a concept, huh??? Over the next year and a half or so, e.g., Paris to Frankfort travel time will decrease from six hours thirty minutes to four hours thirty minutes. A decrease of more than 30%. The travel time from London to Amsterdam will decrease from seven hours forty minutes to three and a half hours. This amounts to more than 50 percent decrease in travel time. This people are organising rail transit across SEVEN European countries using multiple languages and doing it successfully. LACMTA are you listening? The piece also makes the case for city to city rail travel rather than by short-haul air.

The Los Angeles Times features an article on “train art”(2). It was especially interesting especially that they used a picture of a graffiti defaced piece in the Hollywood/Vine Red Line station. Your Mole likes art and he would never deface it. You can see his take on station art, pictures taken mostly on the Green Line, with emphasis on the uncomfortable seating at Mariposa, El Segundo/Nash and Hawthorne (without pictures of the cold slabs there) stations which are presented as art but disguised as seating. (See: Saturday, February 17, 2007 posting)

In another article, the Times(3) covers recent advertising deals which earn the LACMTA approximately $77.1 million or roughly $1.5 million per annum for the largest contract which is spread over five years. Interestingly, although the “pie in the sky” TransitTV was alluded to, no income dollar figures were printed.

Ear to the Rail

In celebration of the new French world high-speed train speed record I am providing two
links We can see and hear the record breaking run, thanks to www.france24.com . Here->
http://www.france24.com/france24Public/fr/nouvelles/monde.html ). We can read about what Reuters had available about the record breaking (357 MPH) run, on-line here, thanks to the the Financial Times ( http://www.ft.com/home/uk ) See: -> http://www.ft.com/cms/s/e726dcaa-e1dd-11db-af9e-000b5df10621.html )

While we Americans and our automobile companies fritter away time arguing about whether gas mileage can be improved or enacting tax law which allows deductions for the purchase of hybrid vehicles, mostly to the benefit of foreign manufacturers, the Europeans and the Japanese are improving inter-city high-speed rail links.

The Mole Rides Again – and writes about it, so that you don't have to wait, and
cool your heels and tap your feet when “America's Best[2006-2007]” leaves late

You may have to click on the picture above so that you can see the detail which I am describing here. The photograph was taken at the Green Line Aviation station which is the first contact with the Los Angeles Metro. As usual, my complaint is with the cognitively challenged department responsible for the poor Metro signage.

So one might expect someone from London to say, “Norwalk? Where the 'ell is Norwalk??” What the sign should say, and it might be a good idea to make the same change at all stations west of Rosa Parks on the Green Line, is: “For Los Angeles and Long Beach -- Board here and transfer to the Blue Line at Rosa Parks station. I say Rosa Parks station, but any one of the multiple names that the LACMTA has overlaid on stations could be used.

The north side of the platform at each station west of Rosa Parks up to and including Hawthorne should have the “Redondo Beach signs modified to say: For LAX -- Board here exit at Aviation station. And, For Long Beach -- Board here and transfer to the Blue Line at Rosa Parks station.

However, the result is as expected when signage is “designed” by people who have never ridden public transportation and could not succinctly describe a routing even if they had. Which “design” group, by having multiple names for the same station, introduces poecilonymic ambiguities and makes Metro travel more complicated.

When you compare this picture, taken in a northeasterly direction from the platform of the Green Line Mariposa Station, with one I posted earlier (Saturday, February 17, 2007), one can see that progress is being made here . Why? Because of management. Management that can set realistic goals and schedules. Management that demands quality and contractor performance standards along with penalties for failures. So, as a result of good management “Campus El Segundo” shown in progress above will be completed on-time and likely within budget. If you are interested in the plans for the site, cut and paste http://campuselsegundo.com/siteplan.html into your browser's URL/address area.

Progress with our bumbling LACMTA is frequently made by lurches, one step forward, three steps backward. Just, please, consider the additional costs incurred by said agency in the reworking of the Patsaouras Transit Plaza roadway, the failure of the “Orange Line” roadway, the crumbling concrete of the Gold Line, poor planning of the Gold Line extension, ditto the Expo Line, sweetheart give-away deals for the Los Angeles Marathon transportation, fare boxes unsuited for serious metropolitan usage, etc, etc., etc. All topics covered by your Mole and all costing or about to cost taxpayers untold millions of dollars. I submit that the dysfunctional LACMTA is mismanaged and someone should be made to pay.

The highly compensated Roger Snoble, in my opinion, has been an ineffective leader at the LACMTA. He should be paid just $100,000 annually, with the remaining $200,000 (his present salary is greater than $300,000) as a bonus, even a negative one, contingent upon performance based on service AND loss reduction.

But, replacing Snoble for his mismanagement of the agency is only one step of at least two that needs to be accomplished, both are embodied in my open letter to Mayor Villaraigosa dated 16 September 2006 and available in the September 2006 achieve.

“Hoor'”, that's two thirds of a “Hooray” for BCT (Beach Cities Transit) which after almost nine months, has replaced its “temporary” sign(see: Saturday, February 03, 2007 posting) with a permanent one. Unlike Big Blue Bus, Culver City Bus and Torrance Transit, BCT Lacks even a years out-of-date schedule on the [Dis]information Kiosk or even an indication of their bus line number (109) at the LAXCBC Bay 6. Your Mole would like to think that his nagging, lead BCT to finally remove their signs from areas off the 109 bus route where they would never stop to places where the 109 actually does stop. And did your Mole receive a “Thank You” from BCT? – No! So he will write his own:

“Dear LA Metro Mole: Thank you for devoting your spare time to helping us manage BCT better than we can by devoting full-time to it. Sincerely, BCT
P.S. We have enclosed a coupon good for one free ride on any BCT bus”.

There, I feel better already!

It is Sunday, 25 March and I am riding a Line 232 bus, number 11063 . The scheduled departure was 9:37 AM, but the operator, number 70885, who works for First Transit, the Metro contractor, makes us wait outside in the relatively cool air. Inside the bus, he waits out the clock and begins boarding at that time. He pulled up in a relief car and has spent 15 minutes or so smoking and performing other “tasks” before he allows us on-board. Then he chats with prospective passengers before leaving over three minutes late. True, three minutes is not much but at the end of the day it means many people will be left waiting and the lost time is ten percent of the inter-departure time of about thirty minutes.

Aboard a 439 Line bus to Union Station – the joys of riding “America's Best[2006-2007]” - Like many Metro passengers, the woman who takes the seat behind me doesn't carry tissues. She prefers to be continually sniffing and snuffling. Attempting to read, I move to another seat. At the next stop a woman boards and begins to carry on a loud conversation with the woman seated across the aisle from both of us. I move again.

This is bus number 5386 driven by operator number 25453. He has opted not to enter the freeway east of the West Los Angeles Transportation Center and we are using surface streets. He is an aggressive, rough driver who uses the bus' horn as much as any of the other of the vehicle's controls.

I continue my trip using the Gold Line from Union Station. A train is waiting on platform 2, doors open and ready to go. I board and notice two LACMTA fare Inspectors standing near the doors just ahead of the place where I take a seat.

We travel three stations from Union Station and neither of these ladies have moved much or inspected anything. Well, that is not entirely true, the larger woman, the one wearing sun glasses is constantly inspecting her cell phone. "America's Best”? I think not!

I am on board a Culver City line 6 bus. The woman across the aisle is another sniffler, one who is playing some kind of game on her cell phone. Her head phones emit audible, but sub-understandable sounds. Taken together, it presents an annoying combination, yet it only qualifies as a Class C annoyance.

She leaves the bus and is replaced by a ”Class B” annoyance, a man with a “walkie-talkie”telephone set at its highest volume level so that both sides of the conversation are clearly understandable. This in spite of the fact that he is at the rear of the bus. I am unable to concentrate on my French art book.

Two women board this north bound bus at about Washington. Both take off their “jackets” exposing the twin Koi (carp) tattooed on one of the women's right shoulder. One of the fish is above the other in sort of a circular arrangement.

I am headed south on a Big Blue number 3. We are sharing the ride along with another ”Class B” guy. The driver calls out: “Please put you phone on private!”. The passenger complies. I can read! :-)

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(1) Soriano, César G. “European rail lines taking a giant leap” USA Today 30 Mar. 2007:6D

(2)Lee Chris “L. A. Subculture” Los Angeles Times 29 Mar. 2007:E26

(3) Guccione, Jean “A feast for the eyes at subway stations” Los Angeles Times 7 Apr. 2007:B?

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